Iraqi pro-government forces clash with Kurds in Kirkuk province
Forces affiliated to the central government in Iraq took control on Friday of the last district in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk still in the hands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters following a three-hour battle.
A force made up of US-trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service units, Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces and Federal Police began their advance on Altun Kupri at 8:12am local time, said The New Arab's correspondent on the scene.
"Details will be communicated later," the spokesman said in a short posting on social media.
Kurdish authorities have sent reinforcements to the front lines. An Associated Press team saw a convoy of 50 armoured vehicles arriving at the Kurdish side of the front.
The district of Altun Kupri, or Perde in Kurdish, lies on the road between the city of Kirkuk - which fell to Iraqi forces on Monday - and Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq that voted in a referendum last month to secede from Iraq against Baghdad's wishes.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew from the town of Altun Kupri, located on the Zab river, after battling the advancing Iraqi troops with machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades, Reuters said, quoting security sources.
It was not immediately clear whether there had been any casualties in the fighting.
The Iraqi forces have advanced into Kirkuk province largely unopposed as most Peshmerga forces withdrew without a fight.
The fighting at Altun Kupri marked only the second instance of significant violent resistance by the Kurds in Kirkuk province since Monday.
Altun Kopri marks the administrative limit between Kirkuk and Irbil. It belongs administratively to the Kirkuk province.
Iraqi forces are seeking to reestablish Baghdad's authority over territory captured by the Kurdish Peshmerga outside the official boundaries of the Kurdistan region in the course of the war on Islamic State group militants.
The Peshmerga had moved into Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled the region in the face of IS' advance in 2014. The Kurdish move prevented Kirkuk's oilfields from falling into the hands of the militants.